Category: Column


One to Watch?

[This article by Player Research Director Graham McAllister was featured on]

Graham McAllister explores the potential gaming applications of Apple’s latest device

It’s not often a new gaming platform comes along. I don’t mean an iteration of an existing one, like a next-generation console update, but rather, a completely new way of experiencing games. The Apple Watch has been with us for just over two weeks, and although smartwatches from other manufacturers have been available for a while, none have made any real impact. But this is Apple, and they’ve been clever to position their offering differently, this is not just a functional device which makes accessing information easier, it’s also presented as a desirable fashion accessory. Such an approach will help address the perception that smartwatches are only for tech-savvy early adopters, Apple is clearly saying that’s not the case at all, they’re for everyone. But is it for gamers? Well, it depends on what you mean by gaming. Is it a device to play games on in the traditional sense? Most likely not. Could it be a way to create deeper engagement with games that users are already playing on their other devices? Almost certainly. But to understand how the Apple Watch can increase a player’s engagement with a game, we first need to explore the watch from an interaction design perspective.

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What does it take to become an expert?

Player Research Director Graham McAllister’s monthly article went up today. Does it take 10,000 hours to become a master in your field?

Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers, claimed that an individual must practice for at least 10,000 hours, or approximately 10 years (20 hours a week for 500 weeks) in order to reach expert status. Since then, this figure has been often quoted, however it seems that it may not be quite true.

The 10,000 hour rule was first proposed by Herbert Simon and Bill Chase in 1973, when they looked into the histories of experts in different domains. They found that in chess for example, the average time taken between someone first learning the rules of chess and then becoming a Grandmaster, was 10 years. The same is true in musical composition, the time taken between first studying music and then going on to make a great composition is also around 10 years. Similarly in other domains, studies have found that for scientists and authors, the time taken between making their first publication and their best publication, was also around 10 years. However, what Simon and Chase also found, was that time alone would not automatically lead to expert status, i.e. merely spending 10 years in your chosen discipline had little bearing on becoming an expert. Something else was needed.

Read the full article here.

Mar Article: Whose Game is it Anyway?

Graham’s second monthly article was posted today. In it he speaks to the importance of defining an intended audience in game design and the problematic categories that hamper current games design in doing so:

Who is your game for? This might seem like a trivial question, something which any developer should be able to answer clearly and concisely, yet it’s common for responses to use broad terms or involve a large degree of guesswork.

This seems at odds with the very essence of design. After all, design is not just about creating a product, it’s about creating a product for an intended audience. The reason why design paradigms involve a feedback loop is so key assumptions are regularly validated against a well-defined set of users, but if you haven’t defined your intended audience accurately and you’re validating against the wrong players, are you really evaluating your game’s design at all?

Read the full article at

Feb Article: I Fight For The User

Graham’s monthly article begins with an introduction to the field of user research:

My day job is to improve everything about the games industry. That may sound rather sensationalist for the opening sentence of a regular new column, but I believe it to be true. Well, mostly. So what job could I possibly have that has such a broad impact across the industry? After all, the games industry is made up of many different roles – designers, programmers, artists, producers, directors, studio heads, publishers, investors – is there really one discipline that could enhance the way each of these individuals work and improve the games that emerge as a result of their efforts? Yes, there is, and it’s called User Research.

Read the full article at